Much as I would love to bore you all with further stories drawn from the cunningly carved chest of my folk-tale based research, I fancy that I will, from now on, be keeping the most fascinating results from my recent Madrid sojourn firmly to myself. I am, after all, writing a thesis – and see little benefit in spraying about the wondrous sparkling water of my work well before it reaches publication. It would be tragic, I’m sure you will agree, were some sauntering blog-skulking thief to steal my unique perspective on circular narratives in the Italian folk-tale and sell it the world for his/her own benefit. There is, of course, a burgeoning black market for that sort of thing. Not a day goes by without some desperate academic trawling the web in search of an theory to thieve, especially in the sphere of obscure European literature.
Before leaving this topic behind, however, I ought to pick up on something I neglected to mention last week. You will no doubt remember that I remarked, upon first introducing you to it, the great variety to be found amongst versions of the story we call The Man with the Crop-circle Hands. To quote myself, I noted that: ‘half the versions of this story feature a talking raven, and the other half don’t’ and that ‘one version contains a sub-plot involving a pig who sells his snout to the devil’s daughter’.
This was not a lie. It was not even a fib. Half of the versions do indeed feature a talking raven. A quite vociferous raven. In fact, one is exceedingly relieved to find the bird absent in other examples, although I have similarly little time for his replacement – an insanely chattering housewife going by the name of Frusibella. Luckily, there are a few examples in which both the raven and Frusibella are nowhere to be seen. And it is in one of these that our old friend, the bear, makes an appearance.
Thus it is that one version of The Man with the Crop-circle Hands finds itself into Seth Kinloch’s famous bear folder. But what part, I hear you ask, does the bear play in the story? Is it hiding, again, in a man’s pocket? Or is it camped out in the woods, lying in wait for lonely villagers? Perhaps it might be living in a house, disguised as a blacksmith – or in a field, getting friendly with the donkeys?
The answer, it turns out, is none of these. We don’t know where the bear comes from, or what it is doing in the story at all. All we know is that it strolls into one scene, nearing the end of the story, and says a wise word or two in a language no one really understands. Then it trots off, killing a chicken or two along the way, and humming a song the name of which no one can remember. A most mysterious bear, therefore. But all the more significant, mayhaps, for being so?